We are conducting interviews with graduating leaders to share their stories and inspire UMBC students for years to come. We can inspire others to enact and lead progress towards a more sustainable society.
1. In what ways were you involved in Sustainability efforts on campus during your time as a student?
I first heard about the Biodiesel club during the spring semester of my second year at UMBC. I was inspired by the club’s mission to generate energy from waste and took over the initiative that following summer. In order to teach myself and others more about biodiesel, I constructed a lab-scale reactor designed to produce a small quantity of biodiesel from waste vegetable oil.
The following semester, I was honored to be one of four students to receive an SGA sustainability intern position. This work experience helped me make connections with like-minded faculty and staff at UMBC and beyond. Throughout the academic year, the other interns and I worked together to bring about sustainable change, including single stream recycling, composting, and most importantly, heightened awareness from the UMBC community.
2. What compelled you be involved? What did you get out of the experiences?
Prior to engaging in sustainable efforts at UMBC, I had an eye-opening experience in the chemical industry. The summer after my first year at UMBC, I accepted a sustainability intern position at global chemical company. The main objective of this position was to quantify waste generated by a number of chemical plants, and the results were quite shocking. In comparison to other countries, the United States consistently generated more waste! From the beginning of my undergraduate chemical engineering career, I vowed to work toward achieving more sustainable practices. It was not long after this experience that I became more involved in sustainable efforts at UMBC.
3. What changes have you seen take place during your time at UMBC?
Recycling has improved drastically since my beginnings with UMBC sustainability. It is much more available throughout campus compared to in the past. The composting initiative was also brought to fruition soon after my gig as a sustainability intern ended. Overall, the UMBC community has become much more aware and compliant with sustainable efforts, thanks to the students’ collective voice and faculty support. Organizations like SGA and SEA in conjunction with the Climate Change Task Force have pushed forward more sustainable efforts in record time.
4. What is your vision for the state of sustainability at UMBC 5 years from now?
I am impressed with the UMBC community’s response thus far to calls for more sustainable practices. It is my hope that the community not only maintains, but increases its level of awareness and sustainable practice for years to come. It is encouraging to see new sustainable ideas and approaches capturing the attention of the community as my final days at UMBC draw near.
5. What are the most important lessons you’ve learned through your work and efforts that you wish to share with UMBC students?
Persistence is the key. There were many times that I was forced to reevaluate my sustainable goals. I was very discouraged the first few times this happened, but then I realized that each and every change in plans added a new level of resilience and “sustainability” to my original goal.
Don’t be afraid to voice your opinion – to anybody. In my early days as an SGA intern, I was terrified to truly state my opinion to faculty, staff, and advisors. However, as I watched fellow interns speak boldly, I noticed that their opinions were truly received. Over time, I gained the confidence to speak firmly and with respect. My words took me to places that I never dreamed I could go.
Laura is graduating with a major in Biochemical Engineering. She is also part of the Honors College and UMBC Cross Country/Track and Field. Thank you, Laura.
Video clip of Laura in the Biodiesel Club